You, a Lifetime turned Netflix series based on the book of the same name by Caroline Kepnes, is a thrilling show starring Gossip Girl’s Dan Humphry (Penn Badgley), as well as John Stamos, Elizabeth Lail, Nicole Kang, and Shay Mitchell. Mainly set in the West Village of New York City, this show takes a fresh approach to depicting dating in the modern world by combining the dangers of social media and the concept of “the nice guys,” all while being a pointed commentary on society.
You is based on a bookstore owner named Joe (Penn Badgley in his best performance) who meets and becomes obsessed with a girl named Beck when she comes into his bookstore in Manhattan. This meeting transpires the events of the series which is marketed as a “modern love story.” We have all stalked someone’s Facebook profile, especially someone we are interested in, and during a time of toxic masculinity, #BLM, #MeToo, 21st century feminism, companies illegally monitoring our every move, and hate crimes by white men at an all-time high, this show has never been more poignant or relevant.
Badgley has acknowledged that his character shows how evil people can be. He is perhaps the best actor in the entire show as he portrays an effortlessly charming, handsome, yet rather pretentious bookstore owner who takes it upon himself to “save” Beck, so he can be with her. Moving on from his Gossip Girl years, a show which glamorized stalking and modern love, his contrasting personality shines as a light in the show. It makes us question what really defines romance. Is it someone being enveloped by you? Joined by Pretty Little Liars star, Shay Mitchell, they both portray brilliantly complex characters. Beck, portrayed by Lail, captures the quintessential pretentious art student, a role the show satirizes, yet compliments at the same time. Badgley and Mitchell shone in their roles. However, it is not only the acting which made me love the show so much.
You examines the concept of a manic pixie dream girl, a popular romance trope in which every girl needs a man to rescue her, through the male gaze. It does not glamorize it; it removes the rose coloured glasses and shows the dangers of this mindset. The show also captures the danger of our social media curated lives, the falsity, the stalkers. It speaks about toxic masculinity and how Joe is acting on what he is taught by movies and culture of today. (Joe is a psychopath, but it is interesting to hear it from his perspective.) It examines what we define as good and evil, the lengths we would go for love, and the mindsets that damages us and society. It focuses on the dangers of the trust we put into technology, which is very relevant considering the Facebook data-mining scandal, though the show examines it as something in our day-to-day lives. The series is an anti-romance as it contains every trope but examined from a different socio-political angle.
You is one of the best shows of 2018. Badgley shows his unique acting ability (if you enjoy him in You, you should watch Greetings from Tim Buckley as I feel Badgley deserves more roles like that.) Badgley describes his role as “a meta extension of Dan Humphrey.” The series captures the complications of modern life, the fears of 21st century women, and the dangers of the toxic masculinity mindset, all in a way that makes one think without even trying. If you do decide to watch it, I would read the book as well as it adds depth to the story. It is a genius, unique premise, the likes of which I have never seen before. I do not want to spoil it for you, but it is a gripping, smart tale of modern love. You is available on Netflix Canada and has been green-lit for a second season, which has not started filming yet.